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A Letter: Coping with Withdrawal

Hello there,

Apologies in advance if this post is a bit long, and possibly somewhat bombastic...

I read your post this morning, and it has been playing on my mind a bit. Well, a lot actually, and it took me a few hours to work out why.

There was a part of me read this piece that you wrote: "I go to the gym and work out" and thought, "lucky sod. Wish I could work out." Please read on. I'm not going to say "oooh, my taper is harder than yours" - each of our benzo journeys is unique, and we all face different demons on the way.

You see, and this is where your post pressed my buttons, this time three years ago I was in training for the Dublin marathon. I was a keen runner. At that time, aged 37, I ran about 35 miles a week (I subsequently ran the Dublin marathon in a very respectable 3 hours 20 mins), surfed twice a week in *very* challenging conditions (the Atlantic sea is an unforgiving beast off the shores of Ireland!), and cycled endless miles with my children. Now I can't walk for more than a short while without being crippled for days afterwards.

I thought I would be one of those people that others marvelled at, being incredibly fit and strong into their dotage. Who knows, maybe I will be when this ordeal is over. Maybe, maybe not.

This was all going around in my mind after your post, reflecting on all that I perceived myself to have lost to this drug (in just one year!), and couldn't help feel that that was exactly the point of your post too. Loss. Searing, burning, unjust loss.

And then I vaguely remembered a passage from a book I read recently. That was a minor miracle in itself, given my appalling cog fog! So, looking up the book, I tried to see that act in and of itself as a part of healing. Anyway, to my point. Or, rather, to the point in the book. The quote reads:

"Imagine that you are brought to a time when illness has caused the energy in your body no longer to be sufficient for you to participate in the world in the ways you have become used to. The ways that have nurtured your self-image. The ways you have cultivated to reaffirm this imagined self that you keep building and rebuilding like an armour about you. What happens when you can no longer keep up the kind of employment that brought money into your home and created your self-image as a good provider? What happens when you are no longer able to keep up your image of yourself as a valuable member of society? When you can no longer maintain your identity as a teacher or plumber or poet or parent? What happens when you can no longer be someone with "responsibilities" to the family or community? ... And you ask yourself, "Who was that ... person?" Can you sense how your resistance, your desire for things to be other than they are, would be like a vice closing in on you? ... The resistance is so painful, the pushing away of the present so isolating and fearful, that a feeling of helplessness arises. The more we resist, the more we contract, and the less space we have in which to live our life. ... The confusion and suffering arise from our attachments to how it used to be and how we thought it always would be."

Apart from the remarkable wisdom in these words, there is a sting in the tail. A good sting. These words were written about and for people who are *dieing*, imminently.

Although our circumstances are awful, we do at least have the promise of recovery. You say you are 2 years into your taper? Wow. What strength, what courage! You say you are at 10mg V? I bet you complete your taper. And - here's the biggie - I also bet you recover.

And you'll still be a kid! 30? Pah! A mere strapling!

And you say your 20s won't have taught you anything? I don't believe that for a moment. How much more education do you want than a benzo taper? How much more can you discover about yourself than in this process? How much will you have discovered about how the world works? About (some of) the medical profession? About big corporations? About putting profit before people? About how bad things happen to good people? And about how you can overcome adverse circumstances?

You apologised for being negative. No need. I feel like that every day. I imagine most on here do. But if we can stop clinging to the idea of what we would like things to be like, rather than what they are like, then we let the light in and we see the truth:

- that we are more than the sum of our symptoms, and that we will come out of this.

I survive this awful process by trying to let this truth in every day. Some days I can accomplish it for only a few brief minutes in amongst the hours of tears and anguish that characterises many of my waking hours.

I am no longer a marathon runner or a surfer. I never was. The essence of me is unchanged by these changes in circumstances. I'm still in here. And so are you.

Warm wishes.




Disclaimer:  The information contained in this website was not compiled by a doctor or anyone with medical training. The advice contained herein should not be substituted for the advice of a physician who is well-informed in the subject matter discussed. Before making any decisions about your health or treatment you should always confer with your physician and it is always assumed that you will do so.

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Last updated 21 July 2020